From the employer's point of view, a zero hours contract is a great example of the benefits of the flexible labour market. They allow the employer to change the number of hours an employee works each week, with more shifts offered when they are busy, and fewer when they are not; costs can therefore be controlled and matched more exactly to revenue. They are particularly popular with the fast food outlets like McDonalds and Subway, and high street chains like Boots and Sports Direct. Those employers draw heavily on the younger end of the labour market, with many of their staff being students who are looking for flexible shifts that work around their study hours; for them a zero hours contract may work well. However it is also important to consider whether this will have a detrimental effect on the business's culture; with a high proportion of staff working irregular hours it may become much more difficult to instil a culture and sense of identity with the organisation.
It is now six years since the global financial crisis triggered a prolonged downturn in economic activity. The UK economy, like other developed economies, has struggled to escape from a period of stagnant economic growth.
However, despite the weak economy, many UK firms have succeeded in significantly growing their revenues and profits.
Here are three examples of such businesses. Their strategies for success are different – but there are also some similarities.
Can you compare and contrast these three – and also identify some other businesses that have enjoyed similar success despite the tough economic environment?
You might also consider:
- What factors have driven revenue growth at each of the three
- Has their growth strategy been based on organic or external
- To what extent has their growth been driven by international
- Do you think their recent success can be sustained?
- What factors might that continued success depend on?
Seeking a way to make costs, revenue and profits interesting for my business students and get them digging deep into the reality of cost control, revenue generation I developed the "Shocker or Cracker?" activity.
This requires students to conduct independent research within the classroom using their own electronic devices (laptop, tablet or samrtphone) and helps to generate a healthy sense of competition.
There has been increasing debate about the merits of adopting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy within schools and colleges so I thought I'd give it a go...read more...»
Here is an updated revision presentation on aspects of the economic environment for UK businesses in the late spring of 2013.read more...»
Whenever you are investigating a firm’s accounts – perhaps using ratio analysis – you quickly realise that the answers you’re generating only really make sense when you compare them against something, like last year’s figures, or those of a rival.
My students are looking at a case study (OCR F297) in which a firm is making a return on capital of approximately 11%. We were wondering if that was a ‘good’ return or not. I’ve come across an article that directly answers that question, and raises some other points that offer a revealing insight into the health of Britain’s businesses.read more...»
Perhaps we’re all guilty of picking up on ideas or stories that support a particular view that you feel is right. Ever since I began reading about doubts over the benefits of outsourcing and offshoring I’ve seen more stories on the same theme. There was Bob, who had outsourced his own IT job to China. Then came a special report in The Economist that asked some searching and detailed questions too (you can read more here).
And now the definitive proof - the "Nation's Noodle" is coming home. Golden Wonder's pot noodles are currently made in China and shipped 10,000 miles to the UK, but the 191-year-old British company that makes the product has cancelled its Chinese contracts in favour of making its own noodles in Leeds.read more...»
The value of the pound - or the exchange rate - is back in the news. It looks as though enough international investors have sold £££s that its value has fallen quite sharply. Here are some reminders of what this means, and some helpful reading links.read more...»
Threats - the T in SWOT analysis - are increasingly important to the CEOs of leading companies around the world.
Today's CEOs are concerned about a wide range of potential and ongoing threats to their business growth prospects - from catastrophic events, to economic and policy threats, and commercial threats.
In this short video from PwC, CEOs from a range of companies around the world, talk about their key concerns and the potential impact of these disruptions.read more...»
FT publishes a great report on the culture at Amazon's Rugeley distribution centre. An interesting insight into the culture of a cost focussed and highly effiecient business that is described by founder Jeff Bezos as: "Our culture is friendly and intense but if push comes to shove, we'll settle for intense."
If you had lasagne last night you might be wondering if it was the last remains of the non-running hurdler "100% Pure Beef". Findus have a major problem to resolve after tests showed that their lasagne had been made from horsemeat.
The central thrust of their argument is that the advantages of offshoring work (outsourcing overseas) are falling, fast. The logic of returning work to the developed economies looks fairly convincing.read more...»
I adapted the title for this blog from an article and video clip I came across in the Telegraph, which contains the observation that "consumers forgot that Blockbusters still existed". I don't really think its demise was very hard to predict, and I think most of you will have seen this coming for some time.
But with the decline of Blockbusters - and so much other bad news on the High Street - I've decided to bundle together a lot of ideas and links to encourage students to work independently on this topic, to see if they can understand some of the forces putting pressure on our High Streets at the moment.read more...»
This afternoon The High Court appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers as Administrators of Jessops the high street camera retailer. The company has debts of £80m.read more...»
This is a really important development for business students who need to appreciate the dynamics of the global economy to understand. The OECD has forecast that, within four years, China will overtake the USA to become the largest economy in the world. The value of China's GDP in 2013 alone is forecast by the OECD to be bigger than all the Eurozone economies put together. China has arrived - and it has hugely significant implications for business.read more...»
I'm going to be discussing economic growth and the business cycle in my first Business Studies lesson back after half term, and am hoping this activity will really help the students to think carefully about how the changing business cycle affects a business.read more...»
As the October 10th deadline approaches, the board of BAE face significant difficulties to
complete the proposed merger with EADS.
Here is a useful article from the BBC which discusses how the weather can influence how much we spend. A handy starter to show that demand isn't always solely influenced by price. You can use the additional Q&A section here as an extension for your brighter students.
The BAE EADS merger proposal ought to help pupils attempt develop analytical skills using PESTLE, SWOT or stakeholder models. Can you use these management tools to develop your analysis and evaluation and go beyond application and understanding?
Or should that be 520 million? That’s the amount that one trader apparently spent, in dollars, in a drunken night betting his company’s money on oil price movements. He initially lost almost $10m (hence the title of this blog).read more...»
If you want to show students an example of how even the worst of economic downturns can still present an opportunity for some businesses then you could do worse than show them this article from the BBC about the net profit figures from pay-day loan specialists Wonga.com. The article reports that Wonga have seen a trebling of their profits during 2011 as customers feel the pinch of the recession and look for a quick way to raise cash.
The article strays a little into negative reporting but it reminded me of a lesson I observed last year where the interest rate charged by Wonga was used as an example for students who were calculating compound interest using spreadsheets (you're not a true teacher of business studies until you've attempted to deliver a lesson on compound interest!). Given the APR levels set by the company, students were calculating that a £100 loan that was not paid back for 4 years would accrue a debt of £315 million!
British Aerospace (BAE Systems) and EADS announced that they are discussing a merger.
Building up market share in a competitive market with mature brands, similar products and large rivals can be difficult, but attracting the attention or interest of potential customers may require innovative approaches to marketing.read more...»
Here’s a conundrum. Why is employment in the UK economy rising (and unemployment falling) at a time when the economy is still shrinking?
The number of people out of work fell by 46,000 to 2.56 million in the three months to June 2012, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). But in the same period the UK’s national output is supposed to have shrunk by 0.7% - so what is behind the puzzling statistics?read more...»
The car industry is such a good place to go for examples of Business Studies in action. Here, the problem under discussion is capacity utilisation. This concept is very closely linked to the idea of a breakeven point.read more...»
Business Studies students often find economic influences a difficult topic to get to grips with. Here is a current example of a firm that has been hit by tighter government budgets brought about by recession and the need to cut spending.read more...»
The Greek economy contracted 6.5% in the first quarter of 2012. Carrefour, the massive french supermarket which is the world’s second largest retailer, has been operating in Greece in a joint venture with local partner Marinopoulos since 1999 and had 41 hypermarkets, 287 supermarkets and 479 convenience stores in Greece and Cyprus. They made 2.2 billion euros of sales there last year, but are thought to have made a loss of 440 million euros on that revenue.
A fall in sales of a further 16% in the first quarter of this year has now convinced Georges Plassat (a new CEO who took up his post last month) that it is worth taking a loss of 220 million euros to get rid of the business by selling it to the Joint Venture partner for just one euro, and the stock market clearly agrees with him as shares in Carrefour rose by 2.8% in Paris. Here is an example of a new CEO quickly making a decision to mark a change in strategy. Reuters quotes an un-named analyst who implies that the company needs to focus on its core business: “Greece was a market which had been dragging on them. They have their hands full with other projects. It’s better for them to concentrate on saving their French operations.”
M&S took a similar decision last month when they took a 44.9 million pound write-off on their Greek business. French bank Credit Agricole is transferring assets to France from its Greek subsidiary Emporiki bank. Given the deep uncertainty about what will happen to the Greek economy, a business strategy of retrenchment is looking like one which may gain momentum amongst overseas investors.
Our BUSS4 blog has a series of streamed revision presentations which students may find helpful in supporting their studies ahead of the exam. They are listed below:read more...»
The textbooks often find it hard to come up with a topical example of contingency planning which has widespread application - but I suspect that the possible break-up of the Euro zone is a good one. In fact I think this has to be the best example of a possible future event which is of such significance that almost every sizeable business needs to consider contingency planning.
With that in mind, this pdf document from accountants Deloitte provides some useful evidence of how contingency planning works. Its a detailed document and certainly not worth printing or reading in full. I have jotted down some examples from the document further below to illustrate the role that contingency planning plays for this potentially significant risk.
The key for students is to use examples like this to help develop the depth of their analysis. By using the Euro crisis, they are also able to demonstrate the use of relevant, independent research in their answers.
Let’s take a look…read more...»
I was reading today that BMW i8 engines are to be built in Birmingham. Why would the German-based car maker want to produce engines in the UK? What’s brought them here?
I often find this is a great induction session for students who are new to Business Studies, or those progressing from AS to A2 and are looking to apply their knowledge and understanding.read more...»
Two themes wrapped up together here.
Firstly, you will be sure to have noticed references to a ‘Shareholder Spring’ in which normally quiet and docile shareholders have been increasingly resistant to executives’ claims for ever higher rewards. There’s a link to a very handy summary below.
Secondly, this serves as a reminder of one of the several ways in which you can boost the evaluative component of your answers.
The pound buys more euros now than since November 2008, according to a news clip on the BBC. Any Business Studies question with an international dimension gives you scope to talk about exchange rates. This might be a story for you to refresh in your revision, so that you can make a brief reference to it when you are looking to add application, analysis or evaluation to your marks.read more...»
Once again the BBC have posted up a clip that clearly and concisely (in two and a half minutes) neatly sums up the marketing challenges faced by the main UK supermarket chains: store locations, types of store, products, promotions, target markets … and prices.
On that point, there’s also more detailed news published recently about Waitrose matching Tesco prices, getting marketing mileage out of the John Lewis ‘never knowingly undersold’ pledge.read more...»
In just the last few days we have learnt that the economy has entered a ‘double dip’ recession, with the economy essentially stagnant since the peak of the economic crisis passed in summer 2009. What does all this mean for the UK housing market – the central focus of the OCR F297 A2 case study?
This blog contains extracts from the F297 case study toolkit, as well as some extra comments, links and analysis.read more...»
This revision presentation explains the role of interest rates and how they affect both the cost of business finance and the wider impact on business demand.read more...»
Buried in this article about generating investment in Manchester are some gems of examples of why government might encourage foreign takeovers of British business. The article starts with an unlikely visit by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs to the Manchester City stadium.
Famous for coining the term BRICS to describe the major emerging economies, O’Neill is equally famous as the leader of the Red Knights, who failed in their bid to buy Manchester United from the Glazer family in 2010 - the Glazer’s are accused by United supporters of failing to put enough cash into the club since they took it over. Sheikh Mansour, of Abu Dhabi, has poured money into Manchester City since he bought it in 2008 and there are ambitious plans to regenerate the whole area around the stadium.read more...»
This updated revision presentation looks at the topic of exchange rates. What are they, how are they determined and what are the business implications of fluctuating exchange rates?read more...»
This new revision presentation provides students with an overview of the topic of unemployment. It outlines the main causes of unemployment and considers some of the business issues and responses.read more...»
This is a new revision presentation which provides an overview of inflation and the business environment. The measurement and causes of inflation are outlined together with notes on the potential impact of inflation on business.read more...»
This updated revision presentation guides students through the topic of business cycles and economic growth. It looks at issues such as:
- How economic growth is defined and measured
- The nature of the business cycle
- How different kinds of businesses are affected by the economic cycle
- The Credit Crunch
The rising cost of goods and services - or as we know it, ‘inflation’ is one of the key measures that affect our financial well-being and also a word that scares many AS Business students. This article from the BBC helps to explain it in simple terms, which I think any AS Business student should be able to grasp. The Q&A section is particularly useful and may help with those PESTLE and Level 4 Evaluation Marks come the exams in May.read more...»
The relationship between business and the government - one important element of this is government support for business investment through fiscal policy (taxation), regulation and legislation. Yesterday Glaxo announced that they were investing £500mn in a new factory in Cumbria which will provide 1,000 much needed jobs. And this extract from the BBC article about this shows how government has helped to bring this about:
Glaxo said it was motivated specifically by Chancellor George Osborne’s confirmation in the Budget on Wednesday that the government would introduce so-called patent boxes.
These allow corporations to pay a lower rate of tax on profits generated from UK-owned intellectual property.
“The introduction of the patent box has transformed the way in which we view the UK as a location for new investments, ensuring that the medicines of the future will not only be discovered, but can also continue to be made here in Britain,” said Glaxo chief executive Sir Andrew Witty.
“Consequently, we can confirm that we will build GSK’s first new UK factory for almost 40 years.”
A useful little piece of evidence to use if writing BUSS4 essays on this topic.
Sometimes the decline of a business enters a spiral. Conditions in the marketplace change. New competitors emerge. Poor trading conditions lead to disappointing revenues. Cash flow dries up. Suppliers become reluctant to supply. Shareholders begin to pull out, and it gets progressively harder to raise finance to reverse the decline. That seems to be a fair summary of the current woes of Game Group, which is looking increasingly like the latest casualty on the troubled UK High Street.read more...»
Consumers might be feeling the pinch, but despite the downturn, demand for nail treatments is booming. Is having a nail and other spa treatment an affordable luxury what some of us simply can’t do without in times of austerity? This great BBC video looks at the history of products that have boomed in tough economic times.read more...»
A wonderful topical video clip here from the BBC which introduces pupils to the pros and cons of setting up a Franchise. Four minutes long, the video is perfect as a lesson starter for just about every business course that requires students to develop their understanding of business startups.read more...»
A short BBC video on Whitbread’s huge strategic shift from brewing to retailing coffee and budget hotels.
Whitbread abandoned beer brewing and pub retailing and off licence sales, an industry in which had been a significant presence since 1742. By 2001, the sector had low profits growth and declining sales. Capital has been diverted into areas with higher growth coffee shops and budget hotels. Whitbread’s main brands include Costa Coffee, Premier Inns.read more...»
A ‘crossover’ blog here, since most Business students will be spending at least some of their time thinking about the external environment that firms operate in. For most businesses, the dominating external issue has been the deep recession – a long period in which the UK economy has struggled. Analysis from The Economist suggests that the economy has taken so much damage we’re basically back to where we were in late 2003! A pretty depressing thought, but there are some signs that things might be picking up.
What follows is a link to an article giving reasons to be optimistic, and to a short series of blogs from last year that take you through what you need to know about economic ‘fundamentals’ at A2 level.read more...»
There have been plenty of recent blogs on the problems faced by struggling firms on the UK “High Street”. You’re all encouraged to think through these problems, perhaps using a framework like PEST analysis.
This blog adds a couple more perspectives, from recent articles in The Guardian and The Economist that paint a pretty grim future for the High Street - at least in its current form. All is not well for the out-of-town grocery chains either.read more...»
Such is the importance of Tesco’s and their dominance of the retail market that the effect of a 2.3% drop in their like-for-like sales knocked almost 16% off their share price yesterday. Perhaps not so much a reflection of the figures themselves - although they compare poorly with Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s both of whom managed to increase their sales over the same period - as the admission by the new CEO Philip Clarke that Tesco’s got their strategy wrong, both in the short and the long term.read more...»
You may already know about Tesco’s overseas expansion strategy, and its Fresh & Easy venture in the States. The US expansion is taking place in challenging economic conditions and according to The Guardian, the business is ‘mothballing’ a second wave of Fresh & Easy stores, suggesting that the supermarket group’s loss-making US start-up has hit another bump in the road.read more...»
In one sense, employers have never had it so good. Not only do they have a vast and growing pool of unemployed people from which to select. But, their employees are also likely to be working harder, putting in unpaid overtime and keeping their heads down in times of great uncertainty for those in work. That is the conclusion of a new survey reported here in the Telegraph.read more...»